Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hot cross buns

Since Easter is on its way I thought I'd try my hand at some Hot Cross Buns. Especially since they arent very common over here in the US.

The buns are supposed to be something to do with the cross and are traditionally served on Good Friday.

I referred to my trusted Dairy Book of Home Cookery, which my mum bought from the milkman years and years ago.

Hot Cross Buns
Preparation 1 1/4 hrs plus rising
Cooking 25 mins

450g (1 lb) bread flour
50g (2oz) superfine sugar
25g (1 oz) fresh yeast or 20ml (4 tsp) dried yeast
150ml (1/2 cup, 1/4 pint) milk, warm
60ml (4 tbsp) warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100g (4oz) currants
50g (2oz) chopped mixed peel
50g (2oz) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
50g (2oz) sugar
45ml (3 tbsp) milk

Place 100g flour in bowl with the caster sugar.
Mix the yeast with the milk and the water, leave to stand until frothy.
Mix the two together and leave for 20-30 mins until frothy.
Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients. Add the frothy mixture, egg and butter and then knead together for around 5 mins until dough is smooth.
Place in a bowl and cover until doubled in size.
While dough is rising, mix some flour with water and make into crosses for the top of the buns.
Lightly knead and shape into 12 buns, leave to rise for a further 30 mins.
Cut crosses in the tops, top with the flour crosses and bake at 220c, 425f, gas mark 7 for 20-25 mins.
Make glaze by melting sugar in milk in a saucepan, boil for a couple of minutes.
Brush onto hot buns twice.
Eat while warm, or reheat, slice in half and serve with butter.


Sunday, March 29, 2009


With all this baking, I need the best ingredients. I've been worrying about my eggs, so I was very happy when I found a really lovely stand at the little italy farmers market (mercado 9-1pm Saturdays). They have the prettiest eggs, lots of shapes and sizes and I'm just captivated by the beautiful blue and green ones. I keep my egg boxes and they re-use them, and it feels good to know that my baked goods are just that bit better when the eggs come from happy chickens.
Schaner Farms
(760) 749-3976
30819 Mesa Crest Road

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daring Bakers Lasagne!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge I was as surprised as many of the other daring bakers to see this challenge, its very different from our other challenges, and I really lagged behind on getting it done. I was so glad that i did though, it was really fun getting the pasta machine out, and my husband absolutely loved it, so that was really rewarding. I was so scared that the pasta machine would break with the spinach, but it was fine.

Please see beans and caviar for the whole recipe, I'll share my changes to make it veggie!

I decided on a half recipe, that way we would have a big dinner with leftovers, but not enough to have lasagne coming out of our ears!

I made a veggie ragu, I went the easy option and subbed some fake meat and mushrooms, this made it a lot more appetizing to my husband!

I didnt change anything other than the ragu, here is my veggie take on it:

Country Style Ragu’ Ragu alla ContadinaPreparation

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (15 mL)

1/2 medium onion, minced

1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

1 small carrot,

4 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped

7 oz beefless strips, chopped

dry red wine

1 tsp better than bouillon, dissoved in 3/4 cup water

1 cup milk

1/2 tin diced plum tomatoes, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tbsp arrowroot mixed with water

Sautee mushrooms, celery and carrots until soft, add mushrooms, stir then add wine, followed by all other ingredients. Simmer for 10 mins.

The sauce was a little thin so I took some and blended it with a hand blender and added some arrowroot to thicken, simmering for a further 2 mins.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mini Pavlovas

These mini pavlovas were inspired by my trip to Australia at the beginning of the year. The pavlovas were the most delicious thing in the middle of summer.

I knew I wanted to re-create what I'd enjoyed so much in an individual form. I made little mini meringes and topped with a dollop of whipped cream, some lemon and strawberry curd and the lovely local strawberries.

I served these as part of a mini dessert spread at a wedding and I'm told they were the hit of the party!

Pavlova- Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 2

4 egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 300f

Beat the egg whites until frothy, then start to add the sugar slowly while beating. Continue whipping on a med/high speed until the mixture has a medium peak. Fold in the cornflour and vinegar then pipe 3 inch circles onto a silpat or parchment paper.

Place in oven then reduce temperature to 250f and bake for an hour, turn the oven off with the door ajar and allow to cool.

Lemon Strawberry Curd
100g (4oz) butter
225g (8oz) sugar
3 eggs plus 1 yolk, beaten
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup strawberry puree, strained

Melt butter on a double boiler, add remaining ingredients and whisk over the heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, taking care that the mixture doesnt boil.

Pour into clean jars and keep refridgerated for up to 2 weeks.

Assemble pavlovas as soon before eating as possible. Take the meringe, add a tablespoon of unsweetened whipped cream, then some lemon curd and top with sliced strawberries.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Cake- More Grossmont Cake Classes

Mmm pretty! We made a stellar and beautiful chocolate mousse cake in class. I'm showing you the chef's version since he did such a wonderful job and we still have a little to learn!
Chocolate mousse cake-makes 2 x 9 in cakes- chef James Foran

9oz cake flour
2 oz cocoa
8oz sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

6 yolks
5 1/2 oz buttermilk
4 oz oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp orange zest

8 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 oz sugar

Heat oven to 350f (conventional)

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside

Whip up yolks, sugar, oil, vanilla and zest

Whip egg whites to a medium peak.

Fold egg whites into yolk mixture followed by dry ingredients. Bake for 30 mins.

Chocolate Mousse

40oz cream
1lb 8oz bittersweet chocolate

Beat cream until it reaches soft peaks. Meanwhile, melt chocolate.

Take 1/3 cream and beat into chocolate then quickly fold remaining cream in. This is best done as quickly as possible when the two are at similar temperatures, try and get the cream room temperature.

2oz Grand Marnier
1oz simple syrup

Chocolate Glaze
14oz chocolate, chopped
14 oz cream

Heat cream until the sides are bubbling. Add to chocolate, leave to sit then mix until smooth. Try not to mix too much, that adds bubbles.
As always, get a nice clean top to the cake Cut 3 layers of cake. Set one layer aside.Cut cake to fit a nice clear space for mousse in a 9 inch cake ring. Use soak to moisten cakes.

Beating cream into chocolate mousse

Folding cream into chocolate/cream mixturePipe into mould around cake, making sure to use enough pressure to get the mousse around the cakeCover top of cake with mousseTop with another layer of cake, pipe more mousse, then get a nice clean finish on the top. Freeze for at least 2 hours Release from pan with a blowtorch.Now for the bit that is harder than it looks. Working quickly, pour chocolate ganache over cake, allow to run evenly down the sides of the cake

Use a heated spachelor to make one clean sweep across cake. This is best only done once.

Here are our team's cakes. We quickly realised that a frozen cake and hot ganache is very tricky to work with. Also, make sure to use lots of soaking syrup to make sure the cake stays nice and moist.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've really been slacking off in terms of keeping up with this blog, I love sharing my recipes and thoughts. Hopefully after this weekend I'll have more time. I've been so busy making cakes for people I haven't had time to share any recipes, so I thought I'd share some here, and feel free to check out my flickr page to see more.

I made some thomas the train cakes this weekend for a lovely little boy. I think they went down quite well from the party photos. Thanks to flickr user hello naomi for the inspiration

I also had a couple of requests for polka dot cakes for people, they were very specific about the colors. My fondant technique is getting much better and I dont have to worry about hiding stuff quite as much these days!!

Another fun project was some tiffany boxes. I took a starburst chew, encased it in a thin layer of chocolate and topped with a bow. These adorned the super delicious raspberry chocolate cupcakes. A bit fiddly as they are very fragile, but super delicious

I used a similar technique for these baby blocks, I also got to use my new extruder to make the piping. Its going to be a very handy tool!

A real version of the present cake I made recently:

And my entry for the san diego cake club competition. I was really happy with this, but it obviously didnt wow the judges. Oh well, more practice!

And some carrot cupcakes for the delightful twins celebrating their first birthday. From the pictures it looks like they finished the whole cakes!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daring Bakers News!

So the Daring Bakers upgraded to a whole new website, which looks absolutely awesome! I was also honored to be included in one of the new features, cookbook reviews.

See here for my review of the field guide to cookies.

Other features include a whole new challenge, the 'daring cooks' and lots of other fun forums and things. Very much looking forward to the new site!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mini date cupcakes

I recently checked a few cookbooks out of the library and amongst them was Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Faulkner. I had a good look through and most of the desserts were just too 'out there' for me. I'd love to say that I'm really adventurous, but when it comes down to it, I'll always go for a really traditional dessert over some crazy flavors.

There were a couple of really tasty and interesting recipes though. There was an interesting vegan lemon curd which I'll be trying, and this scrummy 'sticky toffee pudding' cupcake. It turned out to be a date cupcake which was pretty healthy, the moist dates replacing a lot of the butter. I think I could probably get away with wholewheat flour too. Her one had a scoop out of it and a bit of toffee sauce added, with a cream cheese swirl of frosting. I decided to use my favourite cream cheese recipe and some caramel sauce swirled into it for a quicker presentation.

Beware, when you boil the dates up they smell like ass (maybe thats just my ones) but the final cake tastes lovely!

I made mini cupcakes in a mini muffin pan and found that I had 48!
Date cupcakes from Demolition desserts by Elizabeth Faulkner
1 cup (80z) water
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
6 oz pitted dates, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) all purpose(plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (2oz) butter
3/4 cup (6 1/4oz) firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350f (gas mark 4)

Line a 12 cup standard muffin pan with cupcake liners

Put the dates, water and baking powder in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt
Cream butter and sugar in a mixer for 3-4 mins until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions. Add the vanilla.
On a low speed add the flour and stir just until combined. Add the dates and mix a little more, then scoop into the cupcake cases.
Bake the cupcakes for around 18-20 mins, turning half way though. Test with a toothpick, if its clean they are done.

Cream cheese frosting:

8oz cream cheese
4 oz butter
Powdered sugar to taste
tsp of vanilla or lemon juice
Beat the cream cheese and butter together until all the lumps are gone. Add the sugar and slowly stir until combined then beat for a couple of minutes.

Pour caramel (see here for the recipe I used) down the sides of a piping bag, then add the cream cheese frosting, pipe a swirl onto each cupcake